- Understandably we are already a full month into 2017, but currently, as I am writing this there is a trend afoot: bashing on the year 2016—I don’t understand why.
Political views aside, because I recognize that is a large contributing factor to people’s perceived sour stench of 2016, why was 2016 such a crap year?
So, as I sat there wondering why people were so turned off by 2016, a conversation came into earshot. This enlightening conversation was about New Year’s resolutions. As I sat there listening to these, honestly deranged, New Year’s resolutions, I came to the conclusion that 2016 had a lot of perceived mistakes and failures.
I came to this conclusion because I sat listening to two teenage girls discussing their resolutions to lose weight, and I thought about every other person in the world setting these “socially appropriate” resolutions. This prompted me to then think it through a time machine, about to the time this will be read, a month-ish from New Year’s.
Guess where this led me? To a hypothetical, yet highly probable, conversation between these exact two same girls about how they “failed” losing weight, or how some forty year old man “failed” to go to the gym every other day, or…let me repeat…two teenage girls “failed” to lose weight.
I bet you can also guess how this made me feel. Enraged. Saddened. Confused.
No wonder people have a sour taste in their mouth from 2016! They started it off the exact same way that every year is started off—goals, or better called “socially expected shame enablers”. Why are we doing this? Why are we so quick to find fault in ourselves because we don’t fit the “socially acceptable” norm?
Please, before you judge this as being a radical revolt against goals, understand that I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with goals. However, the way our society uses goals isn’t necessarily the most constructive way of creating direction.
One large misconception that I see and experience in my own life, is the idea that we failed something else—may it be a goal, a relationship, a duty, a job, etc., instead of it perhaps failing us. Maybe these two teenager girls didn’t fail their goal, but their goal, this accepted idea that weight loss is as important as learning, wisdom, passion, creativity, etc., failed them.
Which got me thinking about what we mean when we say we “failed” something, or made a mistake—What do we mean? Is that really want we think the reality is?
If I accidently said something rude, which I have done a many times, is this a mistake? If I didn’t know I was being rude until I saw their reaction, or later reflected on my tone, is this something I would label as a mistake, bad and something I should be ashamed of, or a mistake, an innocent human learn opportunity? Either way, it is still labeled as a mistake, but I get different outcomes out of the different ways of describing them.
With the first definition of a mistake, I get painful feelings and no obvious way to remedy the situation.
With the second definition, I get awareness, compassion, and an obvious way to remedy it. I am not saying that painful associated emotions will magically vanish, but with the logical awareness that mistakes are inevitable, everybody makes them, and nobody, no matter how beautiful their Instagram avocado toast is, is perfect.
And from that awareness, we get perspective. A different perspective from what we have been previously prescribed to- that maybe these goals we have, aren’t because we want to do them, but because we are told we should want to do them.
Start asking yourself questions. If you do really want to be “more healthy”, does that really mean you want to eat more broccoli, or does that mean you want to take more time for self care and relaxation? If you want to “exercise more”, does that really mean you want to go to the gym everyday, or does that mean you want to dance around to your favorite music? What do you want?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay on self-reliance, “There is a time in every man’s (and woman’s) education when he/she arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that lot of ground which is given to him/her.”
Maybe when we envy that avocado toast instagramer, it’s really an ignorance of our own wants. Maybe when we imitate what we are told to do, we silently kill ourselves. And just maybe if we nourish our respective ground, the foundation all of us act on, will we experience this “wide universe full of good”.
So what does a mistake mean to you? Susan Jeffers says, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not growing and learning.” I enjoy this way of looking at mistakes, an acceptance that maybe you didn’t act the way you wanted to, and most importantly, the awareness of growth we receive.
There’s this sort of emotional “awareness-rule” (I really don’t know a better way to call it) that if one feels jealous of somebody else, it’s because they have something they want, and if one accepts their envy, then they will clearly see that they aren’t being completely fulfilled.
I find that looking at mistakes the same way is most beneficial. If we accept our mistakes as fact and inherent, then we can clearly see that maybe we aren’t doing what we truly want to do.
Henry David Thoreau wrote in his easy about economy, “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion.”
Just like what we think we should want, or what we think we should do—it won’t sit right, it will end up failing us. Our private opinion, however, on what we want to do, how we want to act, how we want to see the world around us—that will always remain.
As we start this new year, look at what society versus yourself looks at mistakes. How do you want to spend your year? In growth and knowledge or in stagnation and shame?